Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Free Hannah Overton



If you haven't seen this 20/20 show, I highly encourage you to watch it. It's available to watch in 3 parts on YouTube.

It made me feel ill. It could have happened to any parent...particularly a parent of an adoptive child with special needs. To summarize, a child died of salt poisoning and the mother has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The child clearly had undiagnosed attachment/trauma issues. He also had Pica. The day he died the mom nodded off for a few moments (she'd been in a car accident and was on bedrest with a pregnancy). Soon after she got up, he had a major tantrum and vomited. He seemed cold and she put him in a warm bath, thinking he was getting the flu. 90 minutes later when he still didn't seem okay, they took him to urgent care. At urgent care's doorstep, he went into convulsions and basically went into system failure. They immediately took the parents into questioning and WOULDN'T ALLOW THEM NEAR THE CHILD EVEN AS HE LAY DYING. He died the next day.

She says that he had huge food issues (confirmed by others.) That day, he tantrumed over wanting more soup. He had two bowls of soup that was flavored with a Cajun salt seasoning. In order to end his tantrums, she gave him a sippy cup of water, tinged with a sprinkle of the same salt flavoring in the hopes that he'd stop tantruming. If you know anything about RAD (reactive attachment disorder), you know how bad the "tantrums" might be.

Later they found out he'd been poisoned with salt. Experts say that they believe that when she nodded off to sleep for a moment that he got into the salt and ate a lot of it (because of the Pica.) The prosecution wanted to say that she force-fed him that much salt, which she denies. An expert says that he has investigated multiple cases of foster children with pica ingesting large quantities of salt and poisoning themselves.

They had a videocam in his bedroom for safety reasons...which the prosecution gave as proof that she was a bad parent. (I don't get that...why would videotaping a child to make sure he was SAFE be a BAD thing?) They also tried to show how much a monster she was by showing his bed--a sheet of plywood. But the day before, he'd gone into a rage and smeared feces all over his mattress and sheets. (Another RAD behavior.) They hauled the mattress out to clean it and had him sleep on their floor in a sleeping bag that night. They burned the sheets because they were so badly soiled. All of this the prosecution used to show how "monstrous" they were. By watching the story, it's pretty obvious (if you know anything about RAD) that they were trying the best they could to cope with some pretty severe behaviors. But they desperately LOVED their son and wanted only what was best for him. The mother had no idea that the child was near death. It's beyond me that anyone could think Hannah would purposely force feed him salt. The Pica theory makes sense. And the experts say that even medical professionals don't recognize the symptoms of salt poisoning when they see it.

She is now sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON. Her husband is trying to keep up their five other young children at home. (The youngest born while she was in prison.)

I frankly found it terrifying and unbelievable. BTW, in order for her to get a life sentence she had to be found guilty of one of two things:

1. purposely trying to kill him with salt (not proven at all)
2. purposely withholding medical attention when she knew he was dying.
(Even the expert said that with the rarity of salt poisoning, even most DOCTORS wouldn't be able to identify it. They jumped all over her for not getting help sooner. I'd say 90 minutes is pretty fast for "flu like symptoms", wouldn't you??)

When they interviewed two jurors, neither appeared at all sure of herself.

The whole thing is disturbing and bizarre. Like I said, it could have happened to any parent. Justice was not served.

If you are touched by her story and want to help, go to the Free Hannah Overton website and ask how you can help.

9 comments:

Ansley said...

This story makes me sick. The sad part is when she gets out of prison (I beleive she will), her youngest child (born in prison) may have some of the same issues with trauma/ seperation this foster/ adopt child did.

richmomma said...

>The sad part is when she gets out of prison (I beleive she will), her youngest child (born in prison) may have some of the same issues with trauma/ seperation this foster/ adopt child did.

I thought about the same thing. Hopefully the fact that the child with with siblings/Dad will help. Hopefully.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Emma was born while Hannah was out, waiting for trial. And Rad does not come from simply being separated from you mother. It comes from growing up in a situation where there is NO ONE to emotionally attach to. Andrew's first 2 years were in a drug house. Other RAD kids are from overpopulated orphanages in countries where the kids are warehouse instead of cared for.
-
Emma will be just fine.

richmomma said...

Many different scenarios can cause RAD. You'll find a lot of info on RAD and young children if you Google. Overpopulated orphanages (unfortunately) aren't the only sources.

Anonymous said...

I know many different situations can lead to RAD. I just listed the 2 most common situations. Andrew's situation living in a drug house where people those supposed to care for Andrew were either high of trying to get high. And orphanages like 20/20 focused on their show last night.

Emma is getting plenty of love and attention. She has her father, grandparents, aunts & uncles & church members showering love on her. Not to say there won't be any emotional scars on the kids from this ordeal. Just that RAD won't be one of the scars.

I think the biggest scar the kids will have is the feeling like the world is not to be trusted. For their loving mother to be hauled away & so many people in town to be treating Larry like a child killer, this has to be very tramatic for the kids. I don't know if there is a fancy label for such an issue.

Lets just remember to pray for Hannah to be released soon.

richmomma said...

>Lets just remember to pray for Hannah to be released soon.

Amen!!!

Sounds like you're close to the case and/or the family. I want you to know that many of us in the adoptive community are very concerned and care a lot about Hannah and her family.

>I think the biggest scar the kids will have is the feeling like the world is not to be trusted. For their loving mother to be hauled away & so many people in town to be treating Larry like a child killer, this has to be very tramatic for the kids. I don't know if there is a fancy label for such an issue.

Unfortunately, PTSD may be a label. I hope not, but it would make sense under the circumstances.

Again, know that I'm thinking of the family and praying for them. My heart goes out to them...and you as it looks like you're involved in supporting them. Blessings. And cyber hugs.

Anonymous said...

I am out of town, but I have 'contacts' to the Overton family. Larry Overton may be functioning as a single dad right now, but he is getting a lot of support from many other people. REAL support! People coming over to help with housework & such.

richmomma said...

That's awesome. You're all in our prayers.

richmomma said...

One more note to Anonymous...

I hesitate to post this because I want you to feel supported. I don't want it to come across wrong, so know that I wish we could sit down instead of having a posting conversation. ;)

But I thought I should probably explain where the comment about RAD and bio kids came from. I belong to support groups for families of kids with attachment/trauma issues. Most of the kids have been dxed with RAD and/or PTSD. Although it's the minority, a number of the families are there because of attachment problems with biological children who, for one reason or another, were separated from mom as infants. (Just one example, NICU stays.) And some of the adoptive children with RAD had parents who were present in the delivery room and the initial separation from mom (or the in-utero stress the mom experienced...hard to determine) was enough to cause RAD. Or "attachment issues"...far more common.

Anyway, I don't pretend to know anything about Hannah's situation. But my own experience is the reason that the other poster's comment resonated with me. It grieves me deeply to see a mom separated from her infant because I know all too well what can happen. Not to say that it always happens. But the pain in this case (some inevitable, some unnecessary) makes me so very sad for everyone.

Hugs to you.

As a side note, one thing that many families find very effective for PTSD is EMDR. It may be something that is helpful for the children at some point.

Again, I wish all of you only the best.

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